Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sister Act

Sister Roberta (not her real name) isn't a nun -- her sisterhood being of a freelance variety. She wears long calico skirts and keeps her hair in a bun, and has a demeanor that a friend of mine describes as "high eyebrow" -- intense in a sort of scary, revelation-in-process way. She sprinkles her conversation with ye olde King James English. She runs a mission in South Elsewhere, at the opposite end of the county from Outer Podunk, where she collects anything -- clothing, appliances -- to give to the poor. She's locally known for taking stuff that the local Catholic mission, a relatively fastidious establishment managed by a kindly elderly couple, won't accept.

For the past year or so Sister Roberta has turned her high-eyebrowed glare toward the topic of homosexuality. Every month or so she writes an angry letter to the local newspapers, calling down God's wrath on gay people. A recent letter noted, "My word to the gays is to go back into their closets to pray." (Hey, guess what, Sister?...) "I believe that by saying God blesses the gay lifestyle is [sic] a lie right out of the pit of hell to destroy mankind." "You give the devil an inch, and he thinks he's a ruler!" (Mind out of the gutter, LC...) She gets a lot of epistolary mileage out of Adam-and-Eve-not-Adam-and-Steve.

You'd think that, considering her mission's clientele, she'd be writing letters to the editor about issues like state legislators who want to balance their budget on the backs of the poorest and sickest members of our society, the people with the least ability to advocate on their own behalf...or about business and governmental leaders with no vision, no ideas about how to transform Michigan's obsolete smokestack economy so that its citizens can enjoy meaningful work that pays a living wage...or about complacent, comfortable "good Christians" who have a hard time turning their attention from their next trip to the outlet mall or their newest garage-toy to the needs of "the least of these" in their communities. No -- it's the gay folks who piss off Sister Roberta.

Because of the nature of my employment, I am not at liberty to express public opinions about anything, so I have to quietly grind the enamel off my molars here in the privacy of my home as I read her screeds, and depend upon the kindness of strangers to counter her letters to the editor. (And we do have a brave PFLAG family in our area whose members engage Sister Roberta very eloquently, letter by letter.)

Here's the weird thing, though. I find myself, lately, really wanting to show up one day at Sister Roberta's mission with a sackful of clothes. Not my Coat of Many Colors, mind you, because that would just be mean. And not to mix it up with her. But just bring her some culled clothing, and try to make eye contact, and say, "Do you know someone who could use these?" I'd just like her to begin to understand that I'm not some exotic species of demon released from the pits of hell. That I bring clothing to missions, and groceries to the food bank. That I pray. (In and out of my closet.) That I may be more like her than she thinks I am. I'm not sure where this is coming from -- if it's a prophetic impulse, or simple cheekiness, or a manifestation of my needy desire to have everyone in the whole world like me, all the time. But I just might do it, one of these days.


Nicodemia said...

LC - how would she know that those were 'gay' clothes?? (Unless they are imprinted with a cloven hoof and smell of sulphur!! ;) )

But you go and do it - she's probably never (well, not knowingly) spoken to one of these dreadful perverts! It might, just, make her think!

Or would it?

LutheranChik said...

Nic -- gosh, I don't think my clothing smells like sulfur. More like sandalwoody/bay-rummy/patchouli-y. (Which, come to think of it, might be a tipoff.;-)) Now, my hair, on the other hand, is pretty gay. At least it would be compared to Sister Roberta's.

I don't really know why I want to do this...go give her a bag of clothes; maybe with a note at the bottom of the bag. I don't know where I'm going with this idea, frankly. Maybe I'm an irony junkie.

greg said...

Well, LC, if you do it I think that it has to be with no expectations and absolute faith in the holy spirit. You know, the instant that you start trying to convince her of anything you will have lost the battle. Does this makes sense? It has to be all about letting go.

But what the heck do I know? If you do it, we want a full report.

LutheranChik said...

Greg -- I think you're absolutely right about "no outcomes."

The more I've thought about this, I think the more it's about me -- about training myself to be in proximity with people who really, truly hate me (even if they're not being confrontational at that moment) and be able to manage my feelings about that.

greg said...

LC, I agree 100%. I read this odd comment on a blog the other day where the commentor said "christianity is all about 'me'." It seemed so odd, but of course the sense in which it was meant was just the sense that you are using - Jesus calls us to examine the log in our own eye rather than the speck in our neighbor's. He also calls us to love not just our neighbor but our enemy as well. Tough stuff to live up to.

Verdugo said...

Yes, tawonda, that sounds spot on-- it is about you, not her. I think this is another stirring of the Spirit. This discipline (giving the clothes), like all spiritual disciplines, is not an end in itself, but a way of preparation (or training to use Peterson's analogy) for the greater task yet to be revealed.

J.C. Fisher said...

Because of the nature of my employment, I am not at liberty to express public opinions about anything


It's when I read statements like this, that I'm thankful I'm unemployed: I say whatever I think.

(Then again, have I closed off some employment opportunities by way of My Big Fat Mouth)

Then again, I'm just grandstanding here (safely online): I'm only out to a few people in my parish (mostly, by way of discernment where they are sworn to confidentiality!)

The Spirit, She moves: which way is sometimes hard to tell.

I'm sure you ARE being called to a new (seemingly uncomfortable) place, LC. Only your conscience can say just where that is.

[Can I have the address of the editor of your local rag, so I can tell "Sister Roberta" off? ;-/]